Swoon: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Swoon by Nina MalkinThe first thing to keep in mind about Swoon (2009) by Nina Malkin is that it’s a sexy book. By which I mean racy. The second thing to keep in mind is that it’s totally nuts. More about that after the summary.

Nothing ever happens in Swoon, Connecticut. Just ask Candice, Swoon’s newest (transplanted) resident. There are many reasons Dice would rather be in her native New York City but the fact remains that she is in Swoon. And strange as this land of cookie-cutter preps and family values is, Dice is getting used to it.

Everything changes when Dice’s cousin, the beautifully and tragically perfect Penelope, nearly dies. In those moments between life and death, Pen’s body picked up an uninvited guest: a long-dead ghost named Sinclair Youngblood Powers. Wronged by the town years ago, Sin is looking for revenge and none too concerned about the Swoon residents who stand in his way.

Pen is blithely unaware of the havoc Sin is wreaking, but Dice is painfully aware of both the havoc and its instigator. Dice knows that Sin needs to be stopped before someone gets seriously hurt. But Dice doesn’t know how to stop Sin, especially when she’s hopelessly in love him. More importantly, she isn’t even sure she wants to. What really happens when the boy of your dreams is too bad to be true?

Swoon is a sexy book, a fact clearly played up by the one syllable names (like Sin) that Malkin uses for each character–a conceit which, though initially amusing, became rather tiresome by the end of the story. Equally tiresome was the fact that this book was clearly trying–very, very hard–to be titillating. That isn’t to say it didn’t work. It just got to be a little much.

As happens with shocking books, Swoon includes a lot of drinking, some drug use, and crazy amounts of sex (mentioned, mostly not described). Some is actually relevant to the story. Some is just meant to add to the shock factor of the book.

More frustrating for this reviewer was the erratic nature of the writing. What sounds like a compelling, fast-paced story actually moved quite slowly and dragged in several places in favor of tantalizing tangents.

There are also holes in the prose big enough to throw rocks through.

The first thing readers learn from Dice is that she did not fall in love with Sin at first sight. In fact it happened much earlier than that. Except it is never actually made clear when it happened. She is just not in love with him one minute and then hopelessly in love with him the next. This also changes at the end of the story (see: last chapter).

The narrative is jumpy. Chapters ending on cliffhangers will be followed by openings about unrelated topics often only loosely related to the story. Other aspects of the story, parts that were meant to be heart wrenching, teeth clenching moments, came across as untroubling likely from being juxtaposed to the extraneous “sexy” scenes–or it could have been from Dice’s casual reactions to what should have been heart wrenching and teeth clenching.

Finally, Dice herself is a huge problem. Sometimes movies, or video games, obscure the main character. The protagonist is never seen on camera although events play out through their eyes. In many ways, Dice’s narration felt that way. Not because readers were meant to take part in the story in any traditional sense but because Dice was so undeveloped as a character.

Reading Swoon was very much like looking through a mask with Dice’s face on it. It may have been possible to see Dice’s face in a mirror, but that reflection gave no indication of what she was really feeling. This flatness made the epically star-crossed love triangle at the center of the story fall apart.

Sin, the other character who carries the bulk of the story, was similarly uncompelling. Angry ghost seeking vengeance, fine. Crazy good looking guy with enough charm to bewitch an entire town? Much less convincing.

The frustrating thing about this novel is that the story was so intriguing and, though riddled with issues, the book did have moments of good writing–of truth even. Unfortunately, Swoon was so bogged down by problems with the characters and gimmicky distractions that the negatives far outweighed the positives by the end of the story.